Last week, for the 15th year in a row, I continued my tradition of lampooning the annual Hammacher Schlemmer Christmas gift catalog. This week, I’ve looked back on some 300 items and picked my favorites from past years. Some are still available in the current collection. Still more are in garage sales.
The gorilla in the room: This is a 96-inch inflatable PVC gorilla for those people who love the expression, “That’s the 800-pound gorilla in the room.” Sure, this might be a funny conversation piece the first time your friends see it, but it will quickly become the 19-pound gorilla on eBay.
The 36-in-one pocket tool: This Swiss Army knife includes scissors, nail file, pen, bottle opener and screwdriver, to name just a few components. Out in time for Christmas will be the French Army Knife, with 36 different corkscrews.
The selfie toaster: Here’s how it works: You upload a photo of yourself to the manufacturer and they send you a customized heating element that imbeds your likeness onto the toast. Many women returned the item, claiming they looked old and wrinkled, so now the company is recommending against using their product on English muffins.
The silent speaking dog toy: OK, hang on to your shih tzu. These are toys that make a soothing sound only your dog can hear. I think these are fair questions: How do you know when it’s broken — or if it ever worked?
The call-me gloves: These gloves allow the wearer to wirelessly enjoy cellphone calls while assuming the universal “call me” gesture. Simply hold your thumb next to your ear and then talk into your pinky. This is even more effective than conversing with the basic Bluetooth in your ear if you are trying to convince people you have totally lost your mind.
World’s Biggest Gummy Bear: This gummy bear is 1,000 times larger than your average fruit bear (say that like Yogi Bear and it sounds funnier). HS advises that it tastes best when kept in the fridge and then sliced into cutlets, which is a term that should really be left for veal. The giant gummy bear is cherry-flavored and serves 12 kids. Or 106 adults.
The best talking watch: The gift for people who find it inconvenient or troublesome to have to actually look at their watch. You’re driving your car while holding your coffee in one hand and texting with the other. Don’t jeopardize your safety by looking at your watch.
The best talking scale: Speaks English, Spanish, Greek and Croatian. The good news is that the scale is very accurate. The bad news is, it only knows one joke: “One at a time, please,” which apparently is new material in Croatia. Also, great for people tired of talking to their watch.
The only heated cat shelter: According to HS, this shelter keeps your cat warm in the winter and cool in the summer. “There is no reason for your little feline friend to ever go in your house,” the manufacturer says. Then why have a cat?
The Darth Vader pancake maker: Contains a state-of-the-art thermostat that ensures each pancake or waffle will be a golden brown and cooked in the shape of Darth Vader. But be warned: If you overcook your waffle, breakfast guests will say their food is a little Chewie and on the dark side.
The self-finding wallet: A gadget for space cadets, with an integrated tracking device that you pair with your Bluetooth so if you misplace your wallet, you just go to your smartphone and you can locate it. Now, where the heck did I leave my phone?
Shark bait sleeping bag: Your kids feel safe and secure in their bedrooms and are finally sleeping nightmare-free. Why not surprise them with a life-size shark sleeping bag? The brochure’s photo shows a toddler snuggled inside the bag with only his head sticking out of the shark’s mouth. According to HS, this neat gift “devours children with shark-induced slumber.” Soothing, huh? But there’s more: “It facilitates restful sleep even while the child is being digested.” Wait and buy this on Craigslist for one-tenth the price Dec. 26.